It appears that the legendary Bob Baker Marionette Theater on the southern edge of Echo Park is once again in trouble, with the building and surrounding property at First Street and Glendale Boulevard up for sale at $2.05 million, according to LoopNet. “We just cannot keep the theater open on ticket sales anymore,” said a posting on the theater’s Facebook page. “Our donations are so far off as well we just cannot meet our obligations every month.”
In June 2009, the city declared the cinderblock building a historic cultural monument as part of an effort by fans to rescue the theater from closing. Baker, who is in his late 80s, is one of the nation’s most prominent puppeteers who began working with marionettes at age 7. The building contains 3,000 hand-made marionettes and has hosted shows – followed by ice cream – for nearly 50 years, making it perhaps the nation’s longest-running puppet theater. Donations are still being accepted to support the theater.
The theater was put for sale in 2008 for $1.5 million as Baker and his supporters struggled to keep the property from falling into foreclosure. A donation from a major benefactor kept the theater in business but the business has continued to struggle.
Despite the current sales listing, it’s not clear if this is the end of the road for theater. The sales listing says the seller may consider leasing the back the property.
What can you do with this property, which sits in the shadow of the First Street bridge as it crosses Glendale Boulevard? A rendering that is part of the listing shows how a new office building crowned with a puppet would look on the site of the existing theater and warehouse.